Leaf Lettuce is possibly the most popular type of salad green, enjoyed for its universally appealing taste and texture as well as its attractive appearance. Here are some common reasons that cause your lettuce to bolt and become bitter: Understanding the causes of lettuce becoming bitter will help you to prevent it from happening altogether. Vacuum seal crisp lettuce in a glass jar. Preventing Bitter Lettuce. It's best planted in early spring, because once the heat hits its growth is stunted and the leaves turn bitter. John from http://www.growingyourgreens.com/ answers your questions including: Why is my lettuce bitter? This is especially important during a heat wave when plants need to be watered each day in the early morning or late evening. Lettuce needs to grow fast. Most likely, your bitter lettuce is the result of the maturation process. Leave the core leaves intact. This generally happens at the end of the plant’s life cycle or when the plant becomes too stressed. If you have a vacuum-packing machine, you can use it on a jar of iceberg lettuce to keep it fresh for up to two weeks. Wild lettuce has leaves which aren’t as divided and spread out more. Do you have gardening questions? Iceberg lettuce is super easy: Just toss it whole into a bag. Then we had a dry spell and I let it go a bit and then we had a wet spell and the sunflowers I planted behind the lettuce got so big and heavy they leaned over the lettuce and I could hardly reach it. You don’t want to let your lettuce reach full maturity before harvesting because the leaves get bitter. It’s important to monitor the moisture level of your soil and water your plants only when necessary. That said, lettuce (other than iceberg lettuce) bruises easily and it’s best kept protected in a container. Other than the visual appeal, raised gardens will benefit from better quality soil, reduced interference of... Compost is the key ingredient behind every successful garden. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? Usually sold as Organically, Hydroponically grown lettuce. I like to succession plant my lettuce so I always have a continuous crop. • Leaves of looseleaf varieties are small and bitter … It begins producing seeds and acquires a bitter taste. This blog is where I share all my research and years of experimenting with you! Vegetable gardeners often talk about their plants "bolting," which simply means that the plant sends up a flower stalk and goes to seed. Those vibrant plants laden with juicy red tomatoes, peppers, and lemons won’t come out of bland soil. The whole plant can become deformed. As time passes and the plant loses vigor, you may be better off planting a second round of seeds than waiting for new leaves. No known toxins or issues are associated with eating bitter lettuce. Lettuce rust, formally known as russet spotting, can develop from exposure to ethylene gas. Every two to three weeks, we plant more lettuce from seed in a new container or spot in our garden. Why does lettuce turn bitter? Does your lettuce need to be protected from frost? While it’s definitely possible to grow lettuce in the middle of summer with the methods described, lettuce is still going to bolt eventually and at a quicker pace than it would in cooler temperatures. So how do you avoid growing bitter tasting lettuce in your garden? Also, it can move on wheels so you can easily move it in and out of the shade and spin it so certain plants receive more sun than others! Stalk: Wild lettuce is thicker than prickly lettuce. The Causes of Bitter Lettuce Sap. So, taking a hint from its relatives, I’ll go with the original and for a common term call it Bitter Lettuce. Those large, flat leaves need a large amount of water to remain full and sweet. While it may not taste that great, eating bitter lettuce will not cause harm in any way. Younger lettuce plants will have the best taste. I often hear people say that lettuce can only be grown in the spring or fall because it would become bitter in the heat of the summer. I typically provide my lettuce with cooler morning sun and then keep it in the shade for the afternoon. Mulch your lettuce to keep the roots cool and fool the plant into thinking its still spring. It says, “Uh oh, something isn’t right here and I need to put all my energy into producing seeds so I can thrive again next season!”. But what happens when temperatures dip toward the freezing mark? Lastly there is the Spanish name Achicoria Azul, which means Blue Chicory. This does not work well with butter lettuce and other tender leaves. You can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce for 24-48 hours before serving. Lastly, aster yellows phytoplasma, commonly called aster yellows, is a disease that can cause bitter lettuce. They may even be healthier. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. If you have picked some lettuce and you realize it is bitter, you don’t necessarily have to throw it out! Without a doubt, lettuce is a cool season crop. Next, I’ll give you some tips on how I grow my own lettuce successfully all summer long – even when temperatures reach into the 80s and 90s. Not only is it rewarding to pick your own fresh produce, but once picked, lettuce will continue to grow, giving you successive harvests of fresh greens. Lettuce opium has been used as a topical antiseptic, as folk medicine to ameliorate a variety of conditions, and as a narcotic substitute or enhancer. REFERENCES: Besharat S, Besharat M, Jabbari A. Without proper nutrients, growth becomes stunted and bitter tasting lettuce is the result. Now that we know what causes lettuce to bolt and become bitter, it’s fairly easy to see how we can prevent this and grow ourselves some very healthy lettuce. Lettuce will bolt and become bitter any time the plant feels like it is stressed. There are three main types of lettuce: crisphead, butterhead and loose-leaf. While we happily cook and eat bitter greens (broccoli rabe is a favorite), we don't generally go for it much in salads. Weekend Q&A. In contrast, leaf lettuce is a good source of beta carotene and a moderate source of fiber and carbohydrates. Lettuce can be stored in a plastic bag, a sealed glass or plastic container, or even a salad spinner. When it’s problematic, it may be due to an intolerance, an allergy or an underlying medical condition. This Greenstalk Vertical Garden would make a really awesome salad garden/tower! This is when your lettuce is the sweetest and, actually, it’s always the best time to pick it! Below are some ideas you can try in your area! You can actually grow lettuce all summer long and I have completed some research and experiments of my own with great success! Your lettuce should be ready for harvest anywhere from one to two months after planting. Before you choose a heat tolerant lettuce, think about your garden plan. Others suggest that the bitter lettuce can be stored in high humidity and in the coldest spot in the refrigerator for a few days. As a gardener of 10+ years, I have done my share of research. Not finding what you are looking for? Lettuce can be harvested at any time as loose leafed, cut and come again lettuce. Anybody have any suggestions for what to do with the very bitter baby Romaine lettuce I recently got from my CSA? Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. Some people have found it helpful to soak their bitter lettuce prior to using. This could remove some of the bitterness. Sign up for our newsletter. A relative of leaf lettuce, chicories are made up of hearty, bitter greens that stand up to rich dressings and can be used raw as well as cooked in braises, soups, pasta, and stir-frys. You can keep this from happening by pinching off the center of the plant. You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. It’s during this process that bitter lettuce is produced. Please feel free to Ask a Question (Click Here!) Sometimes the lettuce turns bitter before obvious signs of bolting occur. Interplant your lettuce with taller crops to provide shade as the weather warms. Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) toxicity. 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If you would like to purchase this and learn along with us, you can use this affiliate link or our coupon code to receive $10 off your purchase! By the time one batch of lettuce bolts, we have another batch that is in the middle of its maturity and one that is just sprouting. In order to keep lettuce cool, try growing it in a spot that gets some shade – preferably in the afternoon when the heat is more intense. Planting lettuce in full sun in the spring is an excellent idea. My Do Not Disturb method of gardening includes following nature by never disturbing the soil so plants can grow organically, the way God intended. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. Buy living lettuce. It’s best to harvest lettuce in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun. It is also a mild sedative and hypnotic. Note: Although the biggest cause for bitter lettuce is temperature, along with the other possible reasons listed above, additional factors such as one’s region, current growing conditions and even variety can all play a role in the bitterness of lettuce plants. link to How Long Does a Raised Garden Bed Last? Thin head lettuce to stand from 12 to 14 inches apart. Once the plant gets stressed, it goes into survival mode. Most gardeners will tell you that bitter lettuce is the result of summer heat; lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. Keep your lettuce in a cool place, out of the hot sun to prevent it from bolting quickly and becoming bitter. donotdisturbgardening.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Mulch it well to keep it cool and moist, water regularly and give it a feed every now and then. Others suggest that the bitter lettuce can be stored in high humidity and in the coldest spot in the refrigerator for a few days. Growing your own lettuce is a beautiful thing. Are you familiar with Nutrient Density? According to Jo Robinson, author of the 2013 book Eating on the Wild Side, bagged and boxed lettuce … This means less work for me and letting nature take the lead! Head lettuce was developed to remove the bitter taste from lettuce, but in doing so the lettuce lost most of its flavor and nutritiousness. Let the leaves soak about five to 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly in cold water and then soak them again for a few more minutes. Clip off outer leaves and use. Lettuce is usually thought to be an easy-to-digest food. Plant in rich soil up to base of core leaves. Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success! Unfortunately the plant has yellow blossoms, though sometimes white. When temperatures rise, the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts — sends out a stalk and flowers. You can build some supports around your garden and use shade cloth to block some of the sun from the plants. This site also participates in other affiliate programs, such as True Leaf Market, ShareASale, and Greenstalk Garden and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies. Drain and use. Brown leaf edges are a sure sign that you lettuce is thirsty either from lack of water or root damage from close cultivation. I just recently purchased this grow tower and will be using it this year! This isn’t true at all! Fertilize regularly, but don’t get carried away. “A person who is full refuses honey,    but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.”. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? You can tell your lettuce plants are preparing to bolt when milky white sap flows from the base of leaves as you harvest them. Check out these comparison pictures of lactuca virosa (wild lettuce) vs. lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce). This site is owned and operated by Corey Leichty. Instead of a generic looking and tasting salad, you can make something interesting to eat and look at. Bitter lettuce can also be cooked! If this is the case, try picking your lettuce right away in the early morning. Try mixing with other, milder lettuces to get used to the taste, picking the lettuce earlier while it is younger and the flavor is milder, using more dressing, adding tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan cheese, other stuff. Leaves: This is the best way to tell the difference between the plants. If a lettuce plant does end up bolting, go ahead and pull it up. It will continue to produce its leaves for multiple harvests as long as the plant is healthy and kept at cool temperatures. Keep your soil covered with some type of mulch during the winter, such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips. Place in a glass of filtered water for a few days in a window sill. What makes lettuce turn bitter? I went heavy on the onions and garlic and finished it with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Lettuce starts to "bolt" in hot conditions toward the end of the growing season. Romaine lettuce typically lasts a week when vacuum sealed. link to How Long Does it Take to Make Compost. Add an inch or two of compost to the top of your soil every fall to add back nutrients. If you have any doubt about a lettuce in your garden, taste the leaves. Plant should last through many cuttings… I speak not as a lettuce grower, but as someone who has been served many many many home grown lettuce salads. There some varieties of lettuce and other salad greens that you may find easier to grow during hot temperatures. Sowing seeds Lettuce seeds can be sown directly in the garden or field as soon as the soil can be worked as the seeds will germinate at temperatures of 4.4°C (40°F) and above and seedlings will tolerate a light frost. This could remove some of the bitterness. Belgian endive Water regularly and well. It is unique from other grow towers with its efficient watering system. Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen. Seed was planted too deep; place seed on seedbed and cover with ½ inch of soil. Mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and will go bad quickly, so check your garden everyday for ready-to-harvest leaves. We keep kosher, so wilting it with a bacon-y dressing is out. If you would like to give this a try, separate the lettuce leaves, put them in a bowl of cold water and add a small amount of baking soda. Sprouting Lettuce In Warm Weather. Succession planting will also help extend the season. This is a very straightforward and general answer but I have a lot of tips to follow and methods that I use in my own garden to have fresh lettuce all summer long! I did a stovetop version incredibly bitter lettuce- not only over wintered, but lasting until May ( about 1/2 to 2/3rds lettuces) with bolting kale and chard (the other third.) Remove a few leaves from each plant by picking the leaves off at the base. There is little evidence to support its use for any indication. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. They have a nutrient-rich... Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. Plant Accordingly. BMJ Case Rep. 2009;2009. pii: bcr06.2008.0134. Different levels of shade cloth exist that you can buy depending on how much sun you want to block. English but it really isn’t a lettuce and there are several wild lettuce already. Here’s how to spot the difference: Height: Wild lettuce grows taller than prickly lettuce. • Romaine lettuce does not form heart. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. Find and use it in recipes that call for cooked spinach or kale and it will turn out great! Is there any help for bitter tasting lettuce? and I will get back with you as soon as I can! Is it safe to eat bitter lettuce? Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. Wash the lettuce and then store it in a plastic bag or container. Why does lettuce turn bitter… Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! God created plants in a way that they will reproduce on their own by producing seeds. How can I store lettuce to last longer? I will be doing a full review of it at the end of the season. It is grown as a cool-weather vegetable, thriving when the temperature stays between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Far from the shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuce we all know so wellperfectly round and crunchy, almost all water, and able to last a long time after harvestthe multitude of lettuce varieties available at the grocery store and farmers markets offer a wide range of textures, colors, and flavors. Don’t let the bed become bone dry. The main picture at the top of this post is my own example of this in my garden! Trim off less lively leaves. With these strong flavors- it was very edible. There are a few things you can do to delay bolting, most notably by keeping the soil around plants slightly moist at all times. If you don’t have a shady area, plant your lettuce around other taller plants that can provide shade, such as tomatoes or trellised crops. First, let’s learn some causes of lettuce bolting and becoming bitter and then we will learn some ways to prevent it. Crisphead lettuces-such as iceberg and romaine-grow in very tightly clasped round heads. Leaf lettuce is characterized by leaves grown from the stem, rather than in tightly packed heads. Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. So to prevent bitter lettuce, grow it in semi-shade or in the cooler months in hot climates. Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. As I already mentioned, keep your soil covered with mulch!  This will block the sun, keep the roots of your plants cool, reduce evaporation and retain more moisture in your soil. Partial shade, especially during the warmest parts of the day, safeguards your lettuce crops and helps them from taking on a bitter flavor. Raised garden beds have swayed many gardeners on their side for some apparent benefits. They thrive in cooler months, and some even winter over, because they’re so hearty. Seeds should be sown 0.3–0.6 cm (1/8–1/4 in) deep and 2.5 cm (1 in) apart, leaving 50 cm (20 in) between rows. I topped it with Feta. Plants are crowded. My lettuce went bitter in early July (I’m in Virginia) and I kept eating it. Iceberg lettuce contains the vital nutrients vitamin A and potassium along with trace amounts of fiber and protein. By growing in containers, the lettuce can be moved into the shade when needed, like next to a house or shed. Never remove more than one third of the leaves of a lettuce plant at one time. In this case, it's definitely whole heads FTW. There’s no way you can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are ways you can delay the result. Romaine lettuce grows in elongated heads. Enjoy! You can also choose varieties that are best suited to your climate. It would be easy to succession plant lettuce in these different pockets. In case you aren’t familiar with the term “bolting”, it is when a plant grows quickly, stops flowering, and produces seeds. How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. With this infection, the interior leaves lose color and the outer leaves become stunted. Use “DNDG10OFF” at checkout! View abstract. Lettuce is a full-sun to partial shade plant. While it might look unappetizing, you can still eat it safely. • Head lettuce does not form head. It can be a stand-alone salad green, or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. As mentioned, lettuce is a cool weather crop, so it is naturally going to last longer in the spring and fall. Layer the lettuce in between paper towels to help control moisture. Each leaf has a substantial rib running along the center. Soon the leaves become bitter and are no longer worth harvesting. 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